JacksonWink MMA teammates Alistair Overeem and Andrei Arlovski collide in the main event of Sunday's UFC Fight Night 87 event in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
If somebody can relate to this teammate-versus-teammate dynamic right now, it's Tyron Woodley, who is being targeted to face his American Top Team (ATT) stablemate Robbie Lawler at UFC 201 July 30.
According to the UFC welterweight and Fox Sports analyst, though, Overeem and Arlovski have a different type of relationship. There's tension and some anger, and any signs of brotherhood will quickly be discarded on fight night.
"They [Overeem and Arlovski] have completely different differences than we [Lawler and I] do," Woodley said. "Our differences are that we’re on the same team and we’re friends. Those guys don’t like each other. Those guys have been in training together, and Arlovski claims that Overeem has tried to hurt him in practice, so this is going to be a little bit more of an internal rivalry.
"Me and Robbie, I feel like there’s honor in the fight, and I feel like American Top Team should get a lot of credit for being able to produce so many champions, so many challengers, within one division...But this situation, I think there’s going to be no love lost when they face off."
If this isn't enough to get fans excited about the matchup, Woodley points out that both Overeem and Arlovski are finding their respective grooves inside the cage right now. Overeem has won three straight, his latest a knockout of former heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos. Arlovski, meanwhile, is coming off a loss to current title challenger Stipe Miocic at UFC 195, but the Belarusian had pieced together six straight victories prior to that slip-up.
"I think Arlovski found a way to relax and not be worried about his chin or not be worried about his ability to take a punch, having been knocked out a few times. I think he’s found a way to overcome that," Woodley said. "And Alistair had so much hype around him. They expected him to do so many great things. He’d get up, then he’d fall down a couple notches. Get up, fall down a couple notches. I think the sport—not only the UFC but the sport in general—has been waiting to see that pure hype that he’s been boosted on. And he found Greg Jackson’s camp, and I think Greg’s camp helped calm him down a little bit."
Beyond the main event, Woodley finds himself particularly interested in one other fighter and one other mathchup on the UFC Rotterdam card.
Former flyweight title contender Kyoji Horiguchi faces Neil Seery in preliminary action, and Woodley believes the 25-year-old Japanese fighter's days at the bottom of the card are quickly coming to an end.
"Horiguchi’s been down to ATT, and he has to train with lightweights because they can’t keep up with him," Woodley said. "They have a hard time keeping up with him. He’s so fast, so explosive, so well-conditioned...If he’s not fishing, he’s in the gym training, so I think he’s going to go out there and put on a great performance."
Later in the evening, Woodley will push any other duties aside for a moment to focus upon a matchup in his own division. A 170-pound tilt between Albert Tumenov and Gunnar Nelson piques his interest, and he sees an intriguing clash of styles ahead.
"What I love about this matchup is they’re each other’s worst nightmare," Woodley said. "Somebody who’s calm and relaxed [like Nelson] can sometimes outweigh somebody who is overly aggressive [like Tumenov]. Someone who’s overly aggressive might not allow you to be calm and relaxed and might make it very hard.
"The way Tumenov punches, the way he goes to the body and moves and angles, it’s very hard to take him down. Gunnar Nelson is going to have to get him down to calm his butt down and try to submit him. Now, if he gets on the ground, I don’t think Tumenov is going to be able to get over Gunnar Nelson’s jiu-jitsu. But on the flip side, I don’t think that calm and relaxed style of Gunnar Nelson, I don’t think he’s going to be able to tolerate the amount of freakin’ violence and the volume that Tumenov brings."
While the entertainment value alone is enough for Woodley to hold his calls during Tumenov vs. Nelson, he sees another reason to tune in: Tumenov's technique. In his role as an analyst, Woodley has invested significant time in breaking down fighters' strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies, and he hopes to incorporate a bit of Tumenov's game into his own.
"I’ll be focusing on their techniques," Woodley said. "I’ve already started to try to start stealing some of Albert’s body shots and add them to my game."